It is time for 100th post in this blog. It took some time to finish up A Storm of Spears, Understanding the Greek Hoplite at War by Christopher Anthony Matthew (ISBN# 978-1-84884-295-3, eISBN 9781781594223). As name implies, A Storm of Spears is a research that targets topic of much controversy that happens to be the classical Hoplite method of waging war. For some odd reason, warfare appears to be hard topic for general historians. Considering how much of the useful records are related in way or other to warfare one would expect fundamental understanding of the topic. However, since that is not the case always, it is good that someone brings out right tools for the job at hand. This title is genuinely interesting.
Of course, book that goes into such detail of such relatively narrow topic can be, and is a bit dry and rather repetitive at times, but very through. All aspects of Hoplite combat, weapons, panoply, stances, formations and other aspects are covered and examined in great detail. Most importantly, some of the major controversies and misconceptions are debunked and such through research and use of practical archeology that there is little open questions left. Even if one is already fairly familiar with the topic of hoplite warfare, or period weapon handling, this book probably offers something that you did not know. I bet that some of the ever lasting topics in some wargaming tables would also found satisfactory conclusion if A Storm of Spears would be read more widely.
So A Strom of Spears is not general history of Greece, politics that were guiding the founding of city state armies, but about the individual wearing panoply, either semi-professionally, or professionally. It concentrates solely on the individuals position in the line of battle, weapons, panoply and how all that affects the whole and make it work. Book has excellent structure, the very basics are covered first before moving on to other aspects that depend on the one before. No topic is jumped over only to be returned at later time. There are no gaps of omission in the research or avoidance of difficult subjects. When something is under debate, all sides are taken onto close scrutiny and plausible explanation is found. Where needed, experimental archeology is used to determine viability of postures, effect of weapons and such. Even the statistical analysis about impact forces of spears are actually interesting.
All in all, this is the book for anyone that has deep interest in the classical Greek history. Not only because it solves some of the debates that have been going on for very long time without reasonable resolution, but also because it helps one to understand the individual and the formation capabilities in combat. Through understanding Hoplite combat, A Storm of Spears helps also to understand outcomes of battles and deployments that left distinct marks on the history books. After all, to understand the development of next great power of the region, one should know the foundations.
A Storm of Spears is something really worth reading.